Melvin poised to resurrect 'that feeling' next season

758326.jpg

Melvin poised to resurrect 'that feeling' next season

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Final Cut: 2012 Oakland A's, the story of Oaklands incredible 2012 season, debuts Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!

OAKLAND -- Tony La Russa described it simply as "the feeling." It's the state of an MLB clubhouse that won't be defeated, that believes -- knows -- they will pull out a win when they need it no matter the odds.

As the 2012 MLB season wound to a close, Bob Melvin -- who joined La Russa as the only A's skippers to garner Manager of the Year honors -- had his Oakland Athletics playing with "the feeling."

NEWS: Melvin named 2012 AL Manager of the Year

The A's became the first team ever to claim a division title after trailing by five games with nine to play. With his team seemingly peaking at the right time, the Game 5 ALDS loss that ended Oakland's season was a shocker to the manager.

"We really didn't think the season would end on that particular day," Melvin said. "It ended way too soon for us."

The 2013 campaign is just a few months around the corner, and Melvin still has two years remaining on his three-year contract to re-kindle that feeling in Oakland.

The front office team that employs Melvin -- Billy Beane (general manager), David Forst (assistant general manager), Farhan Zaidi (director of baseball operations) and Dan Feinstein (director of professional scoutingbaseball development) -- is plenty pleased with the decision to hire Melvin, and extend him through 2014.

"Bringing him in about a year and a half ago was the best decision we've made for this organization in a long time," Forst stated confidently.

It's an easy angle to take in the aftermath of the A's 2012 season. But things looked bleak when Melvin took over for Bob Geren in June of 2011. The A's were 27-36 and on target for their fifth year without a winning season.

"This is going to be quite a challenge," Melvin recalled thinking. He didn't hold that sentiment long, though. "Within a couple weeks I really felt like I belonged."

But belonging and succeeding are two entirely different beasts. Melvin entered the All-Star break of his first full season in Oakland with a 43-43 record -- impressive considering the preseason expectations, but still a distant nine games from the AL West-leading Rangers.

The road ahead didn't look any easier as the A's eyed a second-half schedule that opened with the Twins, Rangers and Yankees in succession.

That's when it all changed.

Oakland swept the Twins in Minnesota, scoring 24 runs on nine home runs in the three-game series that set the tone for a monster second half. They went 8-1 against the perennial playoff contenders, giving them every indication that if they stayed hot, playoffs were not out of the question.

"That's when the power started to show up across the board," Melvin said. "We felt like we were a different team. We knew we could hold you down, we just weren't sure if we could score enough.

"When we left, I went, 'Hey, something is going on here.'"

The A's showed time and time again that they could score enough, and something was going on in Oakland. Down the stretch, it didn't seem to matter who was at the plate; from Stephen Drew to George Kottaras, they were getting the job done.

Nobody hit like the A's after the All-Star break. They led the majors with 112 home runs and 394 runs scored.

Highlighting his faith in the front office decisions, Melvin said that he stopped bothering to argue with the brain trust over personnel choices.

"By the end of the season," Melvin joked, "I was like, 'Alright, whoever. Just tell me who we got. We'll bring 'em in and make it work.'"

It seemed like a disengaged message from a man who, minutes earlier, explained that the organization had a plan for everything. But that's what made Melvin so effective. He was able to focus all his attention on his lone goal as manager.

"We just played for the day," Melvin said.

The day-by-day approach is made easier when you have your dream job. Melvin, a Bay Area native who has attended his fair share of games at the Coliseum, said he still gets "that feeling" every time he dons the Green and Gold.

Oakland Phenomenon:

On the day he was personally recognized as the best manager in the American League, it was his team's influence on the local culture that afforded Bob Melvin his most fulfilling moment.

"I'm most proud of what we did to invigorate the city," Melvin said.

As the A's bee-lined for the AL West title, the Coliseum rocked.

RATTO: Award validates Melvin's exemplary work

Recalling what stood out in a plenty-memorable season, Melvin couldn't get past the fans Oct. 11 reaction after the magical run finally dead ended in the ALDS.

"The fans giving us a curtain call -- they wouldn't leave," Melvin recalled. "I don't think I've ever seen that before. Detroit's trying to celebrate on the field and they're looking around like, 'What the heck is going on here, you guys are supposed to be leaving in a bad mood.' And it wasn't the case. It was pretty celebratory.

"One of the things that was -- for me -- the most special of all of this was that we really did re-energize an area."

With ownership hesitant to invest in Oakland, A's fans have grown a reputation in the league for not showing up. But down the stretch, local and opposing players couldn't help but respect the chaos of a lit-up Coliseum. With two more years on Melvin's contract, the A's boy-band popularity could quite easily return.

"When you get a full house here, it is electric," Melvin said. "There wasn't a ballpark that we played in this year that was louder than our ballpark at the end of the season."

Two Leagues? No Problem:

When Melvin and Davey Johnson were named 2012 Managers of the Year, they immediately accounted for 33 percent of the individuals who accomplished the feat in both American and National Leagues.

"I think that was probably the one thing that was most special about winning the individual award, being able to do it in both leagues."

Melvin always thought managing in the NL was more difficult, but acknowledged the decision of when to pull a starter is more pivotal in the AL.

"I would hate to get stereotyped as a guy who couldn't manager in one league or the other," Melvin said.

His inclusion on this list pretty much guarantees he won't:

Tony La Russa-- CHW, OAK, STL
Bobby Cox-- TOR, ATL
Lou Piniella -- SEA, CHC
Jim Leyland -- PIT, DET
Davey Johnson -- BAL, WSH
Bob Melvin -- ARI, OAK

"Honored":

If you thought Bob Melvin was sleeping when he was named AL Manager of the Year Tuesday on MLB Network, you were wrong. He certainly wasn't comfortable, either.

"I was in a little tiny room," Melvin said. "I was about as claustrophobic as I could be. I think toward the end I just wanted to get out of the room.

"I didn't care who won."

For fans who waited through multiple commercial breaks to see the winner announced, Melvin said he had no indication of when he was on camera, and acknowledged that he assumed he wasn't when his opponent Buck Showalter was talking. He was.

"The lead in probably is a bit much," Melvin said of the production. "But it really validated the type of the season that we had. (These awards) are more about the organization than anything."

Hahn's excellence goes for naught as Angels walk off on A's

Hahn's excellence goes for naught as Angels walk off on A's

ANAHEIM — The night should have been about Jesse Hahn, who had every pitch working and rendered Angels hitters helpless over eight innings.

Instead, the A’s postgame comments Tuesday were filled with second-guessing and do-overs that they wish came their way in a 2-1, 11-inning defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.

The game-winner came off the bat of Kole Calhoun, who singled in Danny Espinosa from second to sink the A’s in their first extra-inning contest of the season. Ryan Madson went outside with an 0-1 fastball and Calhoun spanked it into left-center, a pitch that Madson said he never should have thrown.

“I wasn’t comfortable with that pitch,” Madson said afterward. “I should have definitely stepped off and re-thought it, so I didn’t throw it with conviction. It looked like it was off the plate but something he could handle. I learned my lesson to throw a pitch I’m convicted in.”

Calhoun swung through a changeup on Madson’s first pitch. Josh Phegley, who was behind the plate calling pitches, said he didn’t want to go right back to that pitch.

“(You) kind of obviously second-guess yourself after the game-winning hit is hit off a pitch you just called,” Phegley said. “I thought about going back to (the changeup). I saw in my head him kind of making adjustments and just looping one over the infield, getting the same result. … I thought it was a good pitch and I’ll trust that guy’s fastball any day of the year. It just was not the result we were looking for.”

Phegley was set up to be a hero himself, after he came off the bench to pinch-hit for Vogt and smacked the first pitch from Jose Alvarez in the 10th for a homer to right-center that snapped a scoreless tie. But Mike Trout — who else? — answered with a home run to lead off the bottom of the 10th off Santiago Casilla. He sliced a 2-0 pitch off the plate for a drive that cleared the short right field wall just inside the foul pole.

It was Trout’s 23rd career homer against the A’s, his most off any team.

“I don’t know anybody that hits a home run right down the right field line on a ball that looks like it’s by him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “There aren’t too many guys that are gonna do that. Maybe he and Khris Davis. It’s not like it’s a bad pitch.”

Hahn wound up with a no-decision from an outing that might have been his sharpest as an Athletic, perhaps even more so than his shutout of Detroit on Memorial Day, 2015. He allowed just one hit over eight innings, facing two batters over the minimum in that time, striking out six and walking two.

“I feel like I literally had everything working for me today,” Hahn said. “I think it might have been my best command I’ve had of all pitches.”

Hahn, who didn’t make the 25-man roster coming out of spring, is finding his groove since replacing Raul Alcantara in the rotation. In three starts he’s allowed just nine hits and four earned runs over 20 innings, for a 1.80 ERA.

“He pitched as well as we’ve seen him,” Melvin said. “He had his best sink of the year by far. His best sink in a while, and a good curve ball. He really had it working tonight.”

Unfortunately for Hahn and the A’s, his excellent start didn’t come with a ‘W’ attached.

**

Melvin said center fielder Jaff Decker felt something in his foot on a steal attempt of second in which he was thrown out easily without a slide attempt.

“He got taped up and he was OK,” Melvin said.

 

Instant Replay: Casilla blows save in 10th, Angels walk off in 11th

Instant Replay: Casilla blows save in 10th, Angels walk off in 11th

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM – After the A’s appeared to deal a knockout blow in the 10th inning, the Angels countered and ended up handing the A’s their first walk-off loss of 2017.

Kole Calhoun’s two-out single off Ryan Madson in the 11th scored Danny Espinosa and Los Angeles hung a 2-1 loss on the A’s on Tuesday to open a three-game series at Angel Stadium.

Mike Trout hit a game-tying homer off Santiago Casilla to lead off the bottom of the 10th. That came right after A’s pinch hitter Josh Phegley broke a scoreless tie by hitting the first pitch of the top of the 10th for a homer to right-center off Jose Alvarez.

For two teams who didn’t advance a single runner past first base through the first nine innings, the A’s and Angels packed a lot of excitement into the extra frames.

Phegley delivered the A’s first pinch homer in extras since Chris Carter hit one against Seattle on July 6, 2012. After Trout answered with his homer, Albert Pujols lined a single off Casilla, who came in having allowed opponents just one hit over 23 at-bats this season. Ben Revere pinch-ran for Pujols and stole second, representing the winning run with no outs. But Casilla buckled down and stranded him there to keep it a 1-1 game.

Espinosa led off the bottom of the 11th with a single off Madson, then Martin Maldonado executed a two-strike sacrifice bunt to move him to second. With two outs, Calhoun lined his game-winner to left-center, and Espinosa easily beat Jaff Decker’s throw to the plate.

A’s starter Jesse Hahn was outstanding, facing just two batters over the minimum over eight innings and limiting the Angels to one hit. The only problem was the A’s couldn’t get anything going on their end against right-hander J.C. Ramirez, who threw seven scoreless innings. All told, they struck out 11 times against five Angels pitchers.

Starting pitching report:
Hahn was as dialed in as he’s been wearing an A’s uniform. Manager Bob Melvin talks often of the upside he thinks the right-hander has, and Hahn demonstrated that Tuesday. He coaxed 12 ground-ball outs but also showed a good curve ball and struck out six. Hahn walked two, but after the one single he gave up to Marte in the fifth, he promptly picked Marte off first.

Bullpen report:
Sean Doolittle threw a perfect ninth to send the game into extra innings scoreless, and he struck out Kole Calhoun with two nasty sliders. Looking to protect a 1-0 lead in the 10th, Casilla fell behind Trout 2-0 and Trout sliced a homer to the right field corner that landed just inside the foul pole.

At the plate:
The A’s mustered just five hits total.

Ryon Healy, hitting .524 over his previous seven games entering the night, got a start in the No. 2 spot and struck out swinging four times in five at-bats.

The A’s got the leadoff hitter aboard in four of five innings from the fourth through the eighth but couldn’t cash in. And with the strong-armed Martin Maldonado behind the plate for the Angels, Oakland couldn’t jump-start things on the bases. Jaff Decker was thrown out at second so easily in the fourth that he didn’t even bother to slide, as it appeared either him or Healy missed a sign.

In the field:
In line with how well Hahn was dealing, the A’s defense played stingy. Matt Joyce made a diving catch in right to rob Jefry Marte to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Jed Lowrie made a nice play from the outfield grass to retire Danny Espinosa in the sixth. Credit Hahn for keeping his infielders engaged with so many ground-ball outs.

Attendance:
The announced turnout was 30,124.

Up next:
In the middle contest of this three-game set, Sean Manaea (1-1, 4.43) squares off against Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 4.98) on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. Shoemaker’s six homers allowed are tied for third most in the American League.